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Occupation magazine - Siege, Wall, Checkpoints
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The hate that dare not speak its name
By Eoin Murray in Gaza
The Electronic Intifada
20 January 2007
Topography here is in constant fluctuation. From one visit
to the next a whole area, or just a small street, can look
completely different. In Gaza, maybe it has been destroyed
or, sometimes, rebuilt.
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, a flow of
ongoing construction manifests itself in the wall, in the
illegal settlements and in the construction of the
discriminatory road system.
Today, while driving through the western edges of the West
Bank, we began to understand what the `forbidden roads
regime` actually means -- through an intricate series of
road systems Israelis will travel on one set of roads
while Palestinians will travel on roads built underneath
It is claimed that the system is designed to facilitate
so-called `viability` of any potential Palestinian state
by making it territorially contiguous. More importantly,
as Trocaire`s partner B`Tselem, the Israeli human rights
information centre, say: `The Forbidden Roads Regime is
based ... on a racist premise, that indiscriminately harms
the entire Palestinian population, in violation of their
human rights and of international law.` (B`Tselem has a
map of the road system here.)
Many of the roads we passed are still under construction.
We drove along the Israeli-only highways and saw, to the
side, dirt tracks that will be turned into small roads for
Palestinians. Although we were driving through the
occupied West Bank we did not see any Palestinians and we
didn`t see their villages or towns. Only Jewish
settlements were visible.
The view has been `sanitised` so that Palestinians are
never seen, or heard.
The sandy stone of the West Bank has been carved out to
facilitate the construction of the road`s system. All
through our journey we knew, off to our east, only minutes
away, was the hussle and bussle of Palestinian towns with
their chaotic markets and their queues of yellow taxis --
all of this set deep into the rolling jabels (hills) of
the West Bank. But all of it hidden to our eyes.
In response to the publication of Jimmy Carter`s new book,
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Fr. Eoin Cassidy of the
Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs asked in a
recent Irish Times article, `Can one sustain the thesis
that the restrictions imposed on Palestinian freedom of
movement are progressively transforming Israel into an
apartheid state? Unfortunately, I think that we can.`
The roads system is the most obvious manifestation of this
thesis -- discriminating, as it does, on the basis of
racial and ethnic difference. Or in the words of the Rome
Statute to the International Criminal Court (to which
Israel is not a state party), `The crime of apartheid
means inhumane acts ... committed in the context of an
institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and
domination by one racial group over any other racial group
... committed with the intention of maintaining that
And yet the word remains a controversial one. Critics say
that it is inaccurate, lazy thinking that can do nothing
to help the situation here or to bring everyone closer to
justice or to peace.
Tomorrow morning we are heading to the town of Hebron, an
astonishing place, where Palestinians live inside a system
of metal cages which have been placed between the first
floor of their homes and the upper floors where illegal
settlers have moved in. Settlers are allowed to do as they
please but Palestinians are prevented from doing anything,
on the basis of their ethnicity.
To me it has more then the ring of systematic oppression
and domination by one racial group over another to
maintain a regime. But you can call it whatever you like.
Eoin Murray is a Programme Officer for Trocaire.
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